PMs Cameron and Noda previously met at the G20 Summit in Cannes in November 2011

PMs Cameron and Noda previously met at the G20 Summit in Cannes in November 2011 (Source: Pool/Getty Images Europe)

Mainichi reported today that during an April 10th visit to Japan, British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to discuss joint defense technology development and sharing with Prime Minister Noda following the relaxation of the Three Principles Governing Arms Exports last December. They are expected to discuss the necessity of building intergovernmental frameworks to govern joint development and the sharing of technology.

Mainichi focuses on the selection of Britain as a possible partner for this defense sharing, the first besides the US, as coming from Britain’s particular expression of support for Japan’s revision of the Three Principles, as well as “compensation for choosing the US F-35 over the British-backed Eurofighter in the F-X next-generation fighter selection competition last year,” (as a ‘government source’ implied).

The article continues by stating that the MoD has already dispatched a person of authority to the UK to begin concrete discussions on the issue of joint development, but highlights that the prohibition of third-party sharing and use outside the initial intent of jointly developed technologies as still required by the revised principles will remain a significant hurdle to the discussions. The MoD apparently recognizes this and has deemed these initial framework-building measures a necessary step “ahead of individual specific cases” of joint development. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official also commented that the discussions will take around a year and result in cooperation on small-scale projects, rather than large-scale defense projects such as fighter aircraft development, etc.

At any rate, as a Brit watching from the outside, I am thrilled that my country and Japan may be able to cooperate on defense, as well as particularly building (I hope) on the historically strong relationship between the MSDF and the Royal Navy. Britain’s defense industry has been in decline for a long time as amalgamation forced its major defense contractors into British Aerospace, and while the prospect of possible collaboration in the future will probably be a highly limited one, it is nevertheless representative of a larger-scale future for both countries.

It should also be noted as well that British firms already supply miscellaneous equipment to the Japanese government, including the MoD and Self-Defense Forces, having a framework to formalize a flow in the reverse will also be good for allowing greater competition (and hopefully quality) into these small defense purchases in the UK too.

EDIT: The story is now available in English at the new Mainichi site – here – as well as exceedingly optimistic (for the moment) coverage in the British Daily Telegraph – here.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch